Report of main proceedings for 6 June 1994

5th Session of the the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee of the International Convention to Combat Desertification

PLENARY

INCD Chair Bo Kjell‚n opened the fifth session of the INCD andimmediately gave the floor to UNESCO Director-General FedericoMayor, who said that the negotiation of this Convention isdifficult because the INCD is not just preparing a legalinstrument, but setting up cooperation and consultation mechanismsbased on solidarity and partnership. He stressed that actions tocombat desertification should take into account the social andcultural aspects of desertification.

The next speaker was Alain Lamassoure, France's Ministre D‚l‚gu‚for European Affairs, who welcomed everyone to Paris and called fora peaceful war against desertification. He said that France hasalways given special attention to the fight against desertificationand proposed that a signing ceremony at the ministerial level takeplace in Paris this autumn.

President Mascarenhas Montero of Cape Verde, the current presidentof CILSS, spoke on behalf of 44 million Sahelians who have alreadysuffered unnecessarily from recurrent drought. The member countriesof CILSS attach the greatest importance to this Convention, sincedrought and desertification are among the main causes thatjeopardize social and economic development. With regard toimplementation of the Convention, the CILSS countries will make afull contribution to the application of different measures to beadopted. He expressed hope that the resources will made availablesince the gravity of the situation requires rapid action.

Kjell‚n acknowledged the Committee's hard work and expressedconfidence that a successful conclusion is within reach. Theimportance of the Convention was confirmed by the UN Commission onSustainable Development (CSD), which concluded 10 days ago in NewYork, where ministers emphasized the importance of negotiating aneffective Convention. The CSD expects delegates here to agree on aConvention that is equitable, forward looking and efficient, can besigned at an early date and quickly ratified. The expectations ofthe CSD and the men and women of the drylands are with us and wemust not fail.

The Committee then adopted its agenda (A/AC.241/22) and accreditedan additional seven NGOs to the negotiating process(A/AC.241/9/Add.7). Kjell‚n explained that the Committee needs tohave a flexible work programme. The Plenary will meet informally toconsider the main body of the Convention, while at the same time anegotiating group under the chairmanship of Anne de Lattre (France)will examine the regional annexes. Pierre-Marc Johnson (Canada) andBolong Sonko (The Gambia) will continue consultations on financialissues. On Wednesday evening, the Plenary will review resultsachieved and decide on its future programme of work. Arba Diallo,Executive Secretary of the INCD, followed with an introduction ofthe documents before the Committee. Several ministers then madestatements.

BENIN: M. Jean-Roger Ahoyo, Ministre de l'Environnement del'Habitat et de l'Urbanisme, stressed that the implementation ofthe Convention depends on the availability of financial resources.He urged delegates not to repeat the experiences of the 1977Nairobi Plan of Action and to better coordinate financial resourcesat all levels. The ministerial conference of the Non-AlignedMovement, held in Cairo on 3 June, supported a fund to combatdesertification and the effects of drought. Ahoyo supported aspecific financial mechanism for Africa, an independent secretariatwith sufficient resources, and rapid ratification. Benin willcontribute US$1000 to the Secretariat Trust Fund.

MONGOLIA: Dr. Batjargal, Minister for Nature and theEnvironment, said that the implementation of national action plansmust be a priority and should be supported by regional andsub-regional programmes. The situation in the Sahel has receivedconsiderable attention, but the situation in many central Asianregions also merits concern. He described the situation in Mongoliawhere more than 40% of the territory faces increased frequency ofdrought and desertification. Mongolia, with support from UNEP, isdeveloping a national action plan to combat desertification.

SENEGAL: M. Abdoulaye Bathily, Minister of the Environment,stressed the importance of a successful outcome to thesenegotiations and the effect it will have on nearly one billionpeople. The Committee also needs to adopt emergency measures forthe implementation annex for Africa. The Committee needs to ensurethat today marks the decisive stage in the offensive of theinternational community to combat desertification.

@HEADINE 3 = The afternoon session opened with a statement byAlgerian Amb. Amar Belani, on behalf of the G-77 and China. Belanistressed the importance that the G-77 and China attach to thisprocess, particularly the establishment of financial andinstitutional mechanisms to mobilize new and additional financialresources and technology to help combat desertification andmitigate the effects of drought. The G-77 and China insist that aspecialized fund and a separate and independent secretariat beestablished to assist the affected developing countries to honortheir commitments under the Convention. He hoped that theConvention and all the regional annexes for the developingcountries will be adopted simultaneously and quickly ratified.

INFORMAL PLENARY

Kjell‚n opened the informal session and described thefour types of problem areas that remain in the text of theConvention (A/AC.241/15/Rev.3): issues related to financialresources and mechanisms; issues related to categories ofcountries; points related to institutional and legal issues; andthe inclusion of an article on principles. There are also a numberof other sets of brackets that do not relate to these four issuesand Kjell‚n proposed that the Committee address these first.

PREAMBLE: In paragraph 23, (relationship between thisconvention and the conventions on climate change and biodiversity),the US agreed to remove the brackets.

ARTICLE 1 -- USE OF TERMS: Paragraph 2 (possibleestablishment of a glossary) was deleted after the Secretariatexplained that UNEP has already commissioned a dictionary of termsrelated to desertification, and this paragraph is no longernecessary.

ARTICLE 8 -- RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHER CONVENTIONS: TheSecretariat reported that its legal adviser suggested deletingparagraph 2 (the rights and obligations of Parties). Article 30 ofthe Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties covers this issue,thus obviating its presence in this Convention. India argued infavor of its retention because this Convention is different fromthe Climate Change and Biodiversity Conventions. Australia,Colombia, Benin and Bolivia supported its deletion. India said itwould have to consult further on this point.

ARTICLE 10 -- NATIONAL ACTION PROGRAMMES: Saudi Arabiaagreed to move paragraph 3(f) on cloud seeding to Article 17 onResearch and Development.

ARTICLE 11 -- SUBREGIONAL AND REGIONAL ACTION PROGRAMMES:The brackets in this paragraph were easily removed, however, alengthy discussion followed when the EU proposed deleting referenceto regional action programmes or retaining it in brackets, pendingthe outcome of the discussions on annexes. Numerous delegationstook the floor to object to this proposal, since this issue washotly debated at INCD-4 and should not be reopened now. The EUagreed to revisit the issue and report back to the Committee.

ARTICLE 15 -- REGIONAL IMPLEMENTATION ANNEXES: This articlewas bracketed pending the elaboration of the regional annexes. Mostdelegates supported deleting the three sub-paragraphs that listedobligations and retaining the chapeau, which listed elements forincorporation in action programmes. Canada proposed moving this toArticle 9 bis. Egypt proposed moving it to Article 29(Status of Annexes). China, Brazil and Benin, however, argued thatthe article should remain where it is. Canada and Egypt agreed andthe amended text of Article 15 was accepted.

ARTICLE 16 -- INFORMATION COLLECTION, ANALYSIS AND EXCHANGE:The brackets in the chapeau were removed, however, a lengthydiscussion followed when the US proposed reorganizing sub-paragraph(g) so that the phrase "subject to their respective legislationand/or policies" is moved to the end of the paragraph. This wouldensure that the entire sub-paragraph, which addresses exchange ofinformation on local and traditional knowledge, is subject tolegislation and or policies. The Chair asked Ethiopia to holdconsultations on this matter and report back in the morning.

ARTICLE 17 -- RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT: In paragraph 1,brackets were in the phrase: promotion of technical and scientificcooperation "through...appropriate...[existing] internationalinstitutions." Numerous countries, including Benin, Niger and theUS, wanted to delete "existing," but the EU wanted to retain it.Switzerland proposed returning to this matter after agreement wasreached on institutional arrangements.

Saudi Arabia's proposal on cloud seeding, which had been in Article10, was inserted as a new sub-paragraph 1(g). It was amended toread: "enhance water availability in affected areas, includingthrough cloud seeding."

ARTICLE 18 -- TRANSFER, ACQUISITION, ADAPTATION AND DEVELOPMENTOF TECHNOLOGY: Canada proposed amending sub-paragraph 2(a) toread "make inventories of such technology, knowledge and know-howand practices and its potential uses with the approval andparticipation of local populations." Brazil objected.Discussion is expected to continue on this article on Tuesday.

INFORMAL NEGOTIATING GROUP

The Chair, Anne de Lattre (France) requested regionalrepresentatives to provide guidance on the Group's programme ofwork. Benin, on behalf of the African Group, requested thatthe African Annex be negotiated in a separate group, with formalnegotiations to commence Tuesday morning and continue throughWednesday evening. He suggested that negotiations on the otherannexes start Thursday morning. He also requested a new Secretariattext for the African Annex, which would take account of theintersessional consultations. Peru, on behalf of the Latin Americanand Caribbean Group, drew attention to its draft, which had beencirculated that afternoon. He also requested that documentA/AC.241/CRP.11, and not document A/AC.241/24, be used as the basisfor discussion of the Latin American and Caribbean Annex. The UKdid not agree that A/AC.241/24 should be abandoned. China, onbehalf of the Asian Group, noted that its Group will meet Tuesdaymorning to formulate its common position on A/AC.241/25. Greece, onbehalf of the EU, affirmed its support for the NorthernMediterranean Annex.

There was protracted and confusing discussion on the programme ofwork. Brazil proposed that the Group devote the morning sessions tothe African Annex, with the other annexes to be negotiated in theafternoon sessions. Benin insisted that all of the sessions throughWednesday night be used to complete negotiations on the AfricanAnnex. Portugal affirmed the importance of commencing immediatelywith the African Annex. The US also proposed an informal session toenable delegates to exchange views on the African Annex. Since theGroup could not reach agreement on its programme of work, the Chairagreed to transmit the various proposals to INCD Chair Bo Kjell‚nand obtain directions from him on the sequence of negotiations.

IN THE CORRIDORS

While the Plenary began its discussion of some of the bracketedtext in the Convention, numerous consultations were underway withinregional groups and in the smoky corridors of UNESCO on some of themore contentious issues. Bolong Sonko and Pierre-Marc Johnson arecontinuing their consultations on financial resources andmechanisms. The OECD countries discussed finance in their eveningmeeting and the G-77 is expected to discuss the matter Tuesdaymorning. Discussions on categories of countries, institutions andprinciples are also ongoing on a bilateral and group-to-groupbasis. Since many of the most productive negotiations do not alwaysoccur in the large conference rooms, operational optimists believeit is likely that these consultations will result in thecompromises necessary to ensure successful adoption of theConvention.

THINGS TO LOOK FOR TODAY

PLENARY: The Plenary will reconvene in an informal sessionat 11:00 am, to allow time for the G-77 and OECD to meet earlier inthe morning. The Committee will continue its paragraph-by-paragraphreview of bracketed text that is not related to finance,institutions, principles or categories of countries. Discussionshould begin with Article 18. When the first reading is completed,the Committee will either do a quick second reading of theseparagraphs, or move on to the bracketed sections on categories ofcountries. New proposals for categories of countries are containedin document A/AC.241/L.18.

INFORMAL NEGOTIATING GROUP: When the Group convenes at 11:00am, Bo Kjell‚n is expected to provide direction on its programme ofwork. If indeed a separate group is established for the AfricanAnnex, Kjell‚n will have to appoint a coordinator for this newgroup.

Participants

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